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2012 National Conference: Keynote and Town Hall

National and Racial Healing Town Hall

If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world. Now the judgment of God is upon us, and we must either learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King said: “Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.” He challenged us to have the strength to love, to eschew violence, to become tough minded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half truths, and downright ignorance, and reminded us that the straightjackets of race prejudice and discrimination do not wear only overt labels but are matched by more destructive, subtle, psychological and covert techniques. He also reminded that “hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear.”

In this time of widespread and deep economic distress; surging income and racial inequality, resegregation of schools, hate crimes against people of color, immigrants, gays and lesbians, or those who are “different”; epidemic violence; and backlash as our non-White child population approaches a majority coupled with a Black president, this town hall will share some courageous stories of people who have responded to racial strife, hate crimes, violent loss, unjust incarceration and more to reach beyond their pain and pursue restorative justice rather than revenge.

Opening Keynote:

  • Dr. Maya Angelou, who will receive CDF’s lifetime award for helping children Beat the Odds

Moderators:

  • The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, Ill.
  • The Rev. Janet Wolf – National Program Coordinator and Director of Nonviolent Organizing to End the Cradle to Prison Pipeline, CDF Haley Farm Speakers:
  • Vincent Harding, Ph.D., Chair, Veterans of Hope Project, author Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero
  • Nelson and Joyce Johnson, Beloved Community, Greensboro, N.C.
  • Clemmie Greenlee, founder, Galaxy Star, peacemaking organization working with young gang members; former prostitute and gang member who became community organizer/peacemaking leader after her son was killed
  • Kim Odom, Family Support Coordinator, Boston Public Health Commission and Boston Medical’s Violence Intervention Advocacy Program (VIAP)
  • Pastor Ronald Odom Sr., True Vine Church, Dorchester, Mass.
  • Ndume Olatushani, formerly incarcerated prisoner for almost 28 years; 19 on death row

 

Dr. Maya Angelou gave the keynote address and recited a poem as the prelude to the “National and Racial Healing Town Hall” plenary session at CDF’s 2012 National Conference. Three thousand attendees gave Dr. Angelou a standing ovation, nearly half of them young advocate leaders. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just an excerpt -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis in 1928 but raised in Stamps, Arkansas. She experienced very harsh racial discrimination but was also very lucky to have a family that was very immersed in their African American faith and traditions. Angelou won a scholarship for her dedication to the arts and to study dance and drama at San Francisco’s Labor School. Although she dropped out at age fourteen to become the first African American female cable car conductor, she later finished high school and gave birth to her son, Guy, a few weeks later. Maya Angelou later toured Europe in 1954 and 1955 with the opera Porgy and Bess. Along with Martha Graham, she studied modern dance, and with Alvin Ailey she danced on television shows. She also recorded her first album, Calypso Lady. Maya later moved to New York to join the Harlem Writers Guild. Angelou became editor of The Arab Observer in Cairo, Egypt in 1960. The next year she moved to Ghana to teach at the University of Ghana’s School of Music and Drama. While Maya was overseas, she mastered French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and Fanti. During her time in Ghana, she met with Malcolm X and when they returned to America, Angelou helped him set up his new Organization of African American Unity. He was assassinated soon after arriving and shortly after Martin Luther King asked Angelou to serve as Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1970, her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings became an enormous success internationally as well, giving her more popularity. Her script in the movie Georgia, Georgia was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Maya Angelou has served on two presidential committee’s and has been awarded awards such as the Lincoln Medal in 2008 and three Grammy’s. She has received over thirty honorary degrees and Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.


 

Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin share the heartbreak of burying their son with 3,000 attendees of the “National and Racial Healing Town Hall” plenary session at CDF’s 2012 National Conference. Together, these parents describe their determination to turn the loss of their son into a call to stop the killing of young people in the streets of America. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the entire, extraordinary session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.


 

Vincent Harding, chair of the Veterans of Hope Project and author of Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero, poses a question that stuns the crowd of 3,000 attendees during the “National and Racial Healing Town Hall” plenary session at the CDF’s 2012 National Conference. Harding asks that all advocates for justice do something in the spirit of healing the divide. The audience was prepared to meet the challenge—are you? This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Vincent Harding is an acclaimed historian, religious scholar, and activist. He is known for his work with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a friend and colleague. Harding’s social activism has deep spiritual roots in the Mennonite tradition and the Black church. He is revered as a great chronicler of the civil rights movement. In 1997, Harding and his wife, Rosemarie, founded the Veterans of Hope Project at the Center for the Study of Religion and Democratic Renewal at the Iliff School of Theology. The primary mission of the Veterans of Hope Project is to encourage a healing, centered, intergenerational approach to social justice activism that recognizes the interconnectedness of spirit, creativity, and citizenship. The Hardings began their work in the Mennonite Church in Chicago in the late 1950s and moved to Atlanta in 1961 to join with Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in the Southern Freedom Movement. Harding is currently Professor Emeritus of Religion and Social Transformation at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado and visiting Distinguished Professor, African-American Religion, Drew University. Before Illiff, Harding taught at Pendle Hill Study Center, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and Spelman College.


 

Attorney Benjamin Crump draws a line from the 1955 racially motivated murder of Emmet Till to the killing of Trayvon Martin and asks how far we’ve really come in America. Three thousand advocates for justice listened during the “National and Racial Healing Town Hall” plenary session at the CDF’s 2012 National Conference. When we get equal justice for everyone, says Crump, we will be helping America live up to her creed. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.


 

Activist Clemmie Greenlee, founder of the peacemaking organization Galaxy Star, keeps it real about fighting for justice from the street up for 3,000 attendees during the “National and Racial Healing Town Hall” plenary session at CDF’s 2012 National Conference. Greenlee shares her powerful story of unbearable loss and redemption which motivates her mission. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just an excerpt -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Clemmie Greenlee is the mother of a son, Rodriguez, who was killed in 2003. Two men who were affiliated with a local gang were arrested for the murder, but because witnesses were afraid to come forward and testify, there was not enough evidence to proceed with the trial, and the case was dropped. This inspires her life in service as an organizer for the Nashville Homeless Power Project and, as outreach coordinator for the Peacemaker Campaign of the organization Galaxy Star Drug Awareness. She works to prevent further violence by connecting with youth, and particularly gang members, in her community and creating events that promote non-violent solutions to conflict. her opposition to the death penalty, and about how to reduce gun violence, addressing student groups and other audiences. Through her work with the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing, she speaks out about her opposition to the death penalty, and about how to reduce gun violence, addressing student groups and other audiences.


 

Vincent Harding, chair of the Veterans of Hope Project and author of Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero, draws a word-picture of the future all advocates are fighting for during the “National and Racial Healing Town Hall” plenary session at the CDF’s 2012 National Conference. Harding says we are all citizens of a country we have yet to create, and then tells us how to create it. He pledges his life to creating an America with equality and justice for all and challenges the 3,000 witnesses to do the same. Join him, join us. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Vincent Harding is an acclaimed historian, religious scholar, and activist. He is known for his work with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a friend and colleague. Harding’s social activism has deep spiritual roots in the Mennonite tradition and the Black church. He is revered as a great chronicler of the civil rights movement. In 1997, Harding and his wife, Rosemarie, founded the Veterans of Hope Project at the Center for the Study of Religion and Democratic Renewal at the Iliff School of Theology. The primary mission of the Veterans of Hope Project is to encourage a healing, centered, intergenerational approach to social justice activism that recognizes the interconnectedness of spirit, creativity, and citizenship. The Hardings began their work in the Mennonite Church in Chicago in the late 1950s and moved to Atlanta in 1961 to join with Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in the Southern Freedom Movement. Harding is currently Professor Emeritus of Religion and Social Transformation at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado and visiting Distinguished Professor, African-American Religion, Drew University. Before Illiff, Harding taught at Pendle Hill Study Center, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and Spelman College.


 

The Rev. Ronald Odom Sr. tells the story of the death of his son and the birth of his mission to a crowd of 3,000 at the “National and Racial Healing Town Hall” plenary session at the CDF’s 2012 National Conference. He talks about turning the pain and the sorrow of an impossibly sad loss into action that will help make the streets of America safer for us all, so no more parents have to mourn their children’s death from gunfire. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Pastor Ronald D. Odom, Sr. is the pastor and founder of True Vine Church in Boston, Massachusetts. He currently serves as a member and Spokesperson for the ROC (Redefining Our Community) Neighborhood Watch, which was formed by neighbors who have committed themselves to the African Proverb, “It takes a Village.”


 

Kim Odom, family support coordinator for the Boston Health Commission, feels heavy with the weight of the families suffering from the pain of losing children to senseless gun violence, and she has her own story to tell. Forgiveness is a component of justice, and Odom reveals what that means to 3,000 at the “National and Racial Healing Town Hall” plenary session at the CDF’s 2012 National Conference. A youth connected to her son’s death received prison time, and she wants to be a part of his and other’s rehabilitation. Odom truly lives out her beliefs. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Kim Odom is family support coordinator for Boston Public Health Commission and Boston Medical’s Violence Intervention Advocacy Program (VIAP). Odom is also a community organizer and a founding member of Redefining Our Community (ROC) Neighborhood Watch, and Mother’s for Justice and Equality (MJE). After working 10 years in the insurance industry, the tragic death of her 13 year old son, Steven to gun violence on October 4, 2007 brought Odom to the work of violence prevention.


 

Joyce Johnson of Beloved Community Church in Greensboro, N.C. fought for justice in the face of all manner of adversity in her community. She tells the 3,000 at the” National and Racial Healing Town Hall” plenary session at the CDF’s 2012 National Conference how she worked her way through the hard times to heal the community she is committed to serve. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Joyce Johnson is currently Director of the Jubilee Institute, a community-based leadership development and training entity. Johnson assisted the Beloved Community Center of Greensboro (BCC) in developing the Jubilee Institute to provide institutional support, social and political analysis, training, and leadership development for the broad-based progressive movement in that city. Joyce also serves on the North Carolina NAACP State Executive Board, the Guilford Education Alliance Board, and the Faith Community Church Council. Though officially “retired,” Johnson, the BCC and the Greensboro Justice Fund joined with other Greensboro residents in 2001 to establish the pace-setting Truth and Community Reconciliation Project. Modeled after the South African process and other international efforts, this initiative is designed to encourage truth, understanding, and healing throughout Greensboro related to the tragic murder of five labor and racial justice organizers by Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party members on November 3, 1979. Joyce and her husband, the Rev. Nelson N. Johnson, play a leading role in this ground-breaking model for community problem-solving. Johnson studied at Duke University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and University of North Carolina—Greenboro.


 

Nelson Johnson of Beloved Community Church in Greensboro, N.C. talks about being attacked by Nazi racists and getting arrested in his fight for justice. He prayed for his enemies, committed himself to grassroots democracy and community healing and tells the 3,000 at the “National and Racial Healing Town Hall” plenary session at the CDF’s 2012 National Conference about his experiment in courage and dignity. He calls for all of us to find the love in each other and bind to fight for all that is good about America. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just an excerpt -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Rev. Nelson Johnson has been active in the movement for social and economic justice since high school in the late 1950’s. He served as a student leader Student Government Association at Agricultural and Technical State University, in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1970. Between high school and college Rev. Johnson served four years in the United States Air Force. He continues to work for social and economic justice in Greensboro as Pastor of Faith Community Church and Executive Director of The Beloved Community Center of Greensboro. He and other local ministers of the Greensboro Pulpit Forum led an active support effort in 1997 that resulted in a significant contract settlement for workers at the Greensboro K-Mart Distribution Center. As a result, he is frequently invited to share that success story at workshops and meetings, including those sponsored by the George Meany Labor Institute, the AFL-CIO of New York, and the Michigan AFL-CIO. He studied at North Carolina AandT State University and the School of Theology at Virginia Union University.